Saskatoon Star-Phoenix – Sep 25, 1948
Two Hypocrites Meet
I am not a dog lover. I would not even call myself a dog liker.
Some people find a dog pleasant company on a walk. I do not think I ever enjoyed company on a walk less than when I used to have a tramp round Hampstead Heath in the dark in the wake of a racing greyhound on a lead in order that he might have plenty to exercise.
He wanted to go at his pace, I wanted to go at mine; and he being the stronger character, won. And his pace, I assure you, was a cracker.
Remembering this, and remembering that the first duty of a man to a dog is to take it for walks, I was rather upset to hear the other day that a French bulldog was coming to live in the house.
* * *
It had been bought as a puppy to be presented to the children next door in the hope that they might be cured of the fear of dogs in the company of so playful a creature.
If the children were afraid of dogs before the arrival of the bulldog, the first sight of his black Satanic face and his rampant attempt to make friends sent them screaming and flying; locking themselves in rooms and sobbing: “Take him away! Take him away!”
To me the dog looked rather agreeably like Mr. Churchill disguised as a Mohawk minstrel; but to the children he must have looked more like a wild beast from the jungle.
Nothing would persuade them to let the dog live with them and, as a result, here he is, greedy, selfish, disobedient, longing to be taken for walks and snoring all day long, the very incarnation of sloth, you would say.
I tried at first to do my share as his walking companion; but he has the strength of a bullock, so that, if you put him on a lead, he drags you all over the place at a fairly hot pace, occasionally winding you, himself and the lead round a tree or lamp-post.
* * *
I then tried him not on a lead and he tore across the road just in time to be killed by a motorcar if the motorist hadn’t miraculously pulled up with a squealing break and tires.
The next time I went out with him without a lead he saw a trotting horse for the first time in his life and raced after it at top speed, risking his neck and limbs again and again amidst the rush of the traffic.
Since then I absolutely refuse to go out with him, lead or no lead. My heart cannot stand that sort of thing.
You might think that, as I do not like dogs, I wouldn’t care very much what happened to any particular one of them. But, as a matter of fact, this dog is different from the dogs you and I dislike. He’s self-centred, greedy, lazy and undisciplined—I grant you all that—but I must say there is something about him, so that since I have known him I am sure have become a better man.
I find myself developing an unexpected streak of unselfishness, setting aside little tit-bits at the table for him—pieces of gristle and fat, cheese rind, fish skin and even chunks of the kind of cake that I don’t like—just for the pleasure of watching the joy on his face as he bolts the little luxuries.
* * *
I am sure that if you saw the look in his eyes, as laying his chin on my knee he gazes up at me with an expression that would wring gold from a miser, you would agree with me that it would be absurd to bear a grudge to the whole canine race simply because a racing greyhound nearly walked me to death 20 or 30 years ago.
Of course this dog is a hypocrite. He doesn’t really love me so much as his darling—no, no, I mustn’t get sentimental — so much as his begging eyes pretend that he loves me. What he really loves is a piece of cheese rind, and to him I am only an adjunct of a piece of cheese rind.
Still, one cannot help feeling flattered when an animal even pretends to love one.
Obviously, it is all egotism on one’s own part as well as on the dog’s. The one buys flattery with food. The other buys food with flattery.
That—as true dog-lovers will not agree—is all there is to be said about it.